Tete a bouche (part 2)

Warning! Images and description of cooking with a pig’s head inside! Do not read if of a nervous disposition.

After soaking the bits of head in brawn for 24 hours, they had gone a slightly unappetising grey colour. Still, if I was put off by unappetising stuff we wouldn’t be here, right? And neither would you, dear reader. With that in mind, have a lovely picture of brine-soaked head.

If you look closely, you can see where the brain used to go.

If you look closely, you can see where the brain used to go.

Apart from the head itself, brawn requires a couple of pig’s trotters which the butcher kindly supplied free of charge. Indeed, he actually gave us three, strangely. (On the off chance that anyone local is reading this, the butcher in question is Highfield House farm shop. I haven’t yet subjected them to my full rigorous butcher scrutiny test, but they were extremely accomodating in letting Becky and me look around their operation and listen to our long and arduous specifications for how we wanted our pigs cut up.) The trotters will add gelatin to the mix, which will help set the brawn into a (hopefully) appealing shape. As an aside, it turns out that pigs have hairy toes. Specifically, hair between the toes. Mach 3 had another outing. In retrospect I should perhaps have just blowtorched the hair off.

Hot to trot.

Hot to trot.

The head and trotters went back into the pot (again, gigantic pot required) with a couple of quartered onions, a heap of herbs (thyme, parsley, bay and a tiny quantity of marjoram from the herb bed I planted yesterday), and a muslin bag of spices (coriander seed, mixed peppercorns and cloves), and covered with cold water.

A pot of piggy goodness.

A pot of piggy goodness.

I brought the pot up to a very gentle simmer and skimmed off the initial scum that formed on the top (not as bad as I feared it would be). Four hours of simmering later, the meat was ready.

After letting the bits of head and trotter cool, I picked at each piece, separating fat, bone and meat into three bowls. The picture below shows the results. I’d say there was slightly more meat than fat, but only just. Hugh says it’s normal to use all the meat and fat and skin in brawn, but despite our “waste not want not” philosophy we couldn’t bring ourselves to do this; the meat was already pretty fatty, and adding an equal weight of fat just seemed too disgusting to contemplate. Instead, I took one of the larger chunks of fat and added it to the meat, leaving the rest for our hot composter.

On the left, the bones. On the right, the meat. In the middle, a heap of unappetising fat and skin.

On the left, the bones. On the right, the meat. In the middle, a heap of unappetising fat and skin.

I finely chopped the meat. Hugh says to put it in a terrine dish or dishes, but the sheer quantity of meat meant this was not feasible; instead, I put it in a lasagne dish, where it formed a layer maybe 2 inches deep. That’s a lot of brawn! Once that’s done, the brawn needs to be weighed down and fridged. I used a layer of foil and some tins for this purpose.

This time, chickpeas alone were not enough.

This time, chickpeas alone were not enough.

48 hours later (probably 24 hours would have been enough, but I was on the road all day on Monday), I removed it from the fridge in a nicely set block. I had feared that the absence of any lining in the lasagne dish would mean it would be hard to turn out, but after the use of a rubber spatula to loosen it up it came free easily.

Hmmm, brawn.

Hmmm, brawn.

I’m pleased to report that the results are delicious. I had been a little worried that it would be unpalatable or that the process of making it would put me off, but neither turned out to be the case. Brawn tastes, to me, like the filling in a rather high-quality pork pie – salty, meaty and quite herby.

Delicious.

Delicious.

Although I’ve labelled this post and the one before it “thrift” that’s only because for us, the head was in effect free – our pigs were divided between several customers and most others didn’t want the head. To my surprise, a bit of research on the internet suggests that the going rate for a pig’s head is £9, though that will get you a 5kg head and therefore, assuming about a third of that weight is meat, over 1.5kg of meat. So at £6 a kilo arguably it is still thrifty, if not exactly cheap.

Our pigs were Berkshires, who are a bit smaller than most; we got just over a kilo of brawn from one head despite throwing away most of the fat. I’ve divided it into ten roughly equal sized portions and frozen, and look forward to defrosting a bit for picnics in the coming spring months.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , on by .

About Rabalias

Rabalias was born and raised in The Frozen North. Following a decade in more Southerly climes (well, London), he recently returned to wreak havoc upon the Derbyshire countryside. Rabalias has been roleplaying since he was ten years old, when he was introduced to D&D (the red box) and subsequently lost his lunchtimes for good. He grew up on trad games like D&D, Rifts and Shadowrun, and even though he has branched out since, he still has a soft spot for them. Rabalias is a system monkey and cannot quite get over his suspicion of games that do not use dice, despite his atrocious luck. Rabalias has run a number of social LRPs of his own devising. He is currently playing a lot of tabletop games and experimenting with indie stuff. In his non-fictional life, Rabalias is a central Government civil servant (tho' currently on paternity leave), spends rather less time than he should on looking after his garden, is experimenting with raising pigs, is in a relationship with Admiral Frax and is the father of and full-time carer for a small person. Not in that order.

2 thoughts on “Tete a bouche (part 2)

  1. Liz

    Ooh, I don’t think I’ve ever had brawn. Any chance you could be persuaded to defrost some next weekend? 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s